Stop me if I sound like a broken record, but with each day that passes and with each practice Jared Gatiher misses, the Ravens have to be feeling that it is less and less likely that the temperamental tackle can be relied upon to start on the offensive line. Gaither’s attitude and desire have been in question for most of his football career. His talent is evident, but whether or not he cares enough to be a player the Ravens can count on is another thing all together. There were rumblings that the Ravens were unhappy with Gaither last season. The rumblings became tremors during the off-season. Gaither wanted a contract extension. The Ravens meanwhile made sure Gaither realized he was not as valuable, league-wide, as he and his agent believed. Trade rumors surfaced, but not team was willing to part with either a 1st or 2nd rounder in the draft to acquire Gaither. So it appeared that both sides were stuck with each other and the Ravens were stuck hoping Gaither will get the message, start working hard and be a reliable option at right tackle.
Fast forward to training camp. Gaither shows up 29 lbs. lighter, putting forth the message that he needed to lose the weight to make it easier on his bruised foot. Seemed reasonable enough, but not so fast. Word has quickly spread that the Ravens front office and coaches are perturbed by Gaither’s weight loss and the feeling is that Gaither skipping out on the teams off-season workout program is to blame. The concern is that Gaither has not hit the weights hard enough this off-season and will not have the size and strength to be effective at either tackle position.
“He made a decision,” Harbaugh said. “He was working out on his own, so it’s not like he was around. He made the decision to go lighter. I can’t even explain to you why.”
Now Gaither is missing practice after practice with an undetermined injury. Gaither was reported to have some cramping in his lower back on Friday, thought to be a relatively minor injury. Five practices later and the Ravens are sending Gaither to doctors for blood tests to determine the cause of Gaither’s injuries. I get the impression that the latest injury is Gaither continuing his protest of his position switch, but the pattern he is establishing is alarming. Gaither is proving to the Ravens that their worst fears were right, that he has done little to get ready to play a major role in 2010.
So what are the Ravens options? They can proceed with Gaither as the starting RT and hope that his unreliable nature does not pick the worst possible time to show up. They can groom someone else for the position. The problem with that option is that O’Neil Cousins is recovering from a surgical procedure, plus he might not be talented enough to get the job done. Tony Moll also went down with an injury. He is expected back soon, but also has never been a reliable starter. Then there is 2nd year tackle and former college basketball player Joe Reitz and rookie tackle Ramon Harewood. Both, especially Harewood, have potential, but are very short on experience and unlikely to be ready to start this year. The 3rd, and least likely option, is to trade Gaither. The Ravens were reported to have spoken to the Bills about a trade involving Gaither and the Bills have some depth at corner. The needs for both teams seem to match-up, but I am afraid that even the Bills are scared of by Gaither’s attitude. Plus, a trade involving Gaitherwould leave the Ravens with a hole at RT just like benching him would. At this point it appears that the Ravens are stuck with Gaither at RT, but can they afford to be?